Drama attempts to recreate life, together with all the additional conditions that life implies, onstage. Characters in both musical theater and conventional drama productions are shaped by these predetermined circumstances, such as a person's origin or the time a play is set. Find out more about what the circumstances are and how they can affect how you act.
What are the given circumstances?
The given conditions are the who, what, when, where, and why of any character you intend to play in a play. They operate as a setting for a character's internal circumstances, providing guidance on how an actor should embody the character's emotional and physical acts in light of their fictitious past.
The Stanislavski system of acting, so named after Konstantin Stanislavski, places a strong emphasis on utilizing these preexisting circumstances to more thoroughly develop and embody a character (the Russian acting teacher and author of the book An Actor Prepares).
Konstantin Stanislavski: Who Was He?
Russian actor and acting teacher Konstantin Stanislavski lived from 1863 to 1938. Stanislavski established the Moscow Art Theatre and created a system that allows actors to act to the best of their abilities (featuring such concepts as given circumstances, the magic if, and affective memory).
The acting technique used by some of today's most successful artists is still influenced by Stanislavski's system, which has had a lasting impact on the performing arts. His methods of instruction had a significant impact on Lee Strasberg and Sanford Meisner, two well-known acting teachers.
Dissecting "Given Circumstances"
Characters in a script must adapt to their circumstances and exist within them just like real-life humans must.
A person who is immensely wealthy, for instance, is in some ways formed by their fortune. The demands and pleasures of their excessive riches must be adjusted for. Of course, unless they decide to give up their fortune, Their affluence may have an impact on their actions, attitudes, objectives, life experiences, and outlook.
On the other hand, a poor person born into a rough neighborhood experiences the same thing. To fit the situation, he or she may adopt particular etiquette and speaking patterns. Their surroundings will impact how they behave, how they dress, and how they interact with others. Their lack of resources could have an impact on their schooling, dreams, and decision-making.
Given Situations to Take Into Account for Your Character
When you take on a new role, take some time to consider your persona. To do so, bear in mind the following facts:
- What They Want: Give your character a distinct motivation that is based on what you can infer about them from the narrative itself. It's just as crucial to have a clear understanding of what your character wants, how they'll go about obtaining it, and why they want it. Use the play's script as your primary inspiration for this, but keep in mind that you can also add some unique elements to your character.
- When it occurs: Depending on the era in which a person lived, they have had to deal with extremely varied situations. Any particular person's past behaviors have a significant impact on how they may act in the future. In fact, a person's behaviour may change depending on the time of day from what it was an hour earlier. When creating a character identity for your story, take all of this temporal information into account.
- Where they come from: As you begin to plan your performance, keep the play's setting in mind. Consider your character's literal (i.e., geographical) as well as social (i.e., cultural, socioeconomic, etc.) environments. Create a map showing how your character is related to other characters in the play as well as the environment they are in.
- Their identity: Utilize all the information about a character's time, place, relationships, and motivations to understand them as a whole person. If you can't locate anything specific about your character in the book, try pursuing questions about them to their logical conclusion. Make a list of the fundamental characteristics that make your character unique and work to exemplify each one.
3 Exercises Using Given Circumstances
The circumstances for a certain character can be reached in a number of different ways. Consider adding these three exercises to your theater studies:
- Make up a situation. While an actor may spend most of their time presenting written material, improvisation can teach you how to quickly and effectively develop a character from a set of circumstances. Request ideas for scenes as well as a who, what, when, where, and why for each of the participants. With your scene partners, improvise a brief scenario bearing these facts in mind.
- Repeatedly read a monologue. Find a monologue that is somewhat neutral so that the character speaking may come from any number of different backgrounds. Consider a speech about someone leaving their hometown, for instance. Try to deliver the monologue first as a senior in high school and then as a resident of the same town your entire life. This will demonstrate how radically acting styles may need to change simply due to a few incidental character characteristics.
- Consider a well-known character. Make use of well-known figures from literature, a play, or real life to study their contextual circumstances. Consider how Alice's upbringing in Victorian England may have shaped her behavior in Wonderland. Ask Hamlet why his past as a member of the Danish royal family influenced the manner in which he exacted revenge on Claudius. Look for a range of characters in general to observe how various situations cause people to behave and act in various ways.
An Actor’s "Given Circumstances":
In a script, the predetermined circumstances work in the same way. In the fictional universe that the script writer has built, a character is essentially born.
For example, the writer of the script might conjure up a scenario in which the protagonist is young, carefree, from a wealthy family, and madly in love with his high school sweetheart. This character would also live in the 1950s. When creating their persona, the actor must consider these circumstances.
The actor is guided by these conditions in their interactions with their parents, siblings, friends, and their high school sweetheart. Compared to today, people dressed differently in the 1950s. They spoke in a unique manner. Everything about them was vastly different, including what they watched on television, how they interacted with others, and the standards and values they upheld. The actor must be aware of these circumstances in order to modify the character.
Additional Factors Affecting the Character
Though a character's circumstances are mostly dictated by the script, other people working on the production have an impact on the "given circumstances" as well. The character's circumstances are influenced by the director, designers, and other actors in the performance.
The actor can better grasp who they are in relation to other characters by evaluating the situations that are presented. They can more clearly comprehend what time of day and/or what period each scene is set in. Additionally, they are able to perform sincere actions and make greater character decisions because they have a better understanding of the character's motivations.
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